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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  January 28, 2018 3:00am-4:00am PST

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decision. meanwhile, steven's parents have spoken to sydney about what happened to her dad. >> from my viewpoint he gave his life for her. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. i'm craig melvin. >> i'm natalie morales. >> and this is "dateline." ♪ i just can't imagine. to be held in captivity. >> dad, just send the money. that's all they want. >> they have an american kid. a 14-year-old kid in the middle of the jungle. they're thinking they hit the jackpot. >> they were vacationers turned prisoners. a mother and son kidnapped by terrorists. >> we need ten million u.s. dollars for release of the family. >> 10 million from me? are you losing your mind. >> a harrowing international
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hostage drama. >> this is a big operation. this is not just this rag tag group of people. >> anything can happen. there are no guarantees. >> can a father turned negotiator help bring them home. >> we prepared him for the worst. >> i'm getting worried, i'm getting so worried. >> a lot of people were praying for them. a lot of people were. >> hello and welcome to "dateline." they were on a dream vacation when suddenly a mother, her teenage son and a cousin were all kidnapped by a group of men with guns wanting money and lots of it. would the worldwide hostage drama be resolved before it was all too late? here with "heart of darkness" is keith morris. >> they lay in wait, unseen under a thick, green canopy.
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armed to the teeth, immersed in their defiant, extremist belief, hunting, stalking, deadly, in this particular heart of darkness. it was the summer of 2011. a jungle-clad island in the southern tip of the philippines where they prepared the place, and the news of the terrible deed committed here flashed halfway around the world and came crashing down out of nowhere on a modest working class family in lynch burg, virginia. >> i got a phone call from my mother. the first thing she said was she were kidnapped in the philippines. >> kidnapped? sherry hutter tried to wrap her head around the inconceivable. it was her aunt and kevin, her 14-year-old son. they were due home from a philippine vacation. instead, they were in the clutches of something horrific. >> i felt like i was in a dream, like it wasn't real. >> i just was thinking, what.
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>> jerfa's husband had stayed behind and was at work when he heard. >> you must have been terrified. >> yes. it was impossible to think about it. pictures don't lie. >> they didn't. there they were on philippine television. incomprehensible images. their passport's, their half-packed suitcases, the stricken relatives they had been visiting on a small island at the tip of the philippines. jerfa, kevin and one of the young cousins kidnapped by boat in the dead of night. >> i was thinking no, that doesn't happen to us. >> nobody thinks it is going to happen to us, right? >> yeah, but my wife's heart is in the philippines, it is her family. >> jerfa was born in the philippines, had always felt safe there. her older sister married a u.s. navy sailor and moved to america in 1985 and brought
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16-year-old jerfa with her, hoping to give her a chance at a better life. >> she was so excited about the opportunity. i remember she worked at lil cesar's pizza and it was the greatest thing, to get a job. >> she is a son, josh, went back to community college to improve herself, and there she met a german immigrant named heiko. from then on that was it. they were a family. she became a lab telk initialan, they bought a house in a levy neighborhood of lynchburg, virginia and had kevin. the immigrant son baecame an all-american kid. he was 14 that summer of 2011, smart, studious and looking forward to the start of high school in the fall. >> he's a normal american kid that likes pizza, hospital dogs, burgers, hang out with friends, play video games and skateboard.
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>> they lived frugally, which is how heik can o could can afford his used sports car and jerfa and kevin a trip to the philippines. life was good. now it was very bad indeed. >> when i first heard they were kidnapped first thing that came to my mind, was it abu saieff. >> first it claimed affiliation with al qaeda and isis as it sought to establish an independent state in the philippines. in its fight against the government, kidnap for ransom. they had taken american hostages before. some were released eventually but some were beheaded. he was frantic, had no idea what to do, where to turn. that very day the calvary came
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running into. >> my boss from work called, come over, the fbi is here for you. >> what was it like to hear the fbi was paying attention to this? >> it is really real now. this is the real thing. >> we never know how families are going to react obviously, but almost in every case they're in a state of crisis. >> mark thundercloud was the leader of a special fbi hostage negotiating unit, form precisely for an emergency like this. more than a dozen agents descdeon the house, covered the windows, set up a surveillance system in the kitchen and got ready for what they knew was coming, a ransom. >> he is negotiating with someone who is selling his family. >> the fbi told me that my wife and son are merchandise for them. >> that's kind of hard to hear. >> yes. >> we try to be very transparent with the families in these cases, and we try to prepare them as best we can. >> did you prepare haiko for the
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possibility they would be executed? >> yes, we prepared him for the worst. >> now there was nothing else to do except wait. and then the phone rain. >> hello. >> hello. is long distance from philippines. is it mr. -- >> a terrorist on the line and the pawns in question are haiko's beloved wife and son. the life and death negotiations have officially begun. >> coming up. >> we need ten million u.s. dollars for release of your family. >> ten million, from me? are you losing your mind? >> dad, we need you to send the money. >> i'm getting worried, i'm getting so worried. >> when "dateline" continues.
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>> mr. el plant man. >> yes, that's me. >> okay. we'd like to inform you that your family, uh, here with us, under our custody. >> two days after his wife and child were kidnapped by abu sayyaf in the philippines, heiko lunsman got his first call. >> he called me mr. lunsman. i wanted to know what i can call you. i don't want to call you
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kidnaper, terrorist. just give me a name. >> mr. so was calm, business like, like he had done it a hundred times before. in fact, he was the voice for a violent separatist group known for executing prisoners, beheadings usually. >> we would like to tell you that we need ten million u.s. dollars for release of your family. can you hear me? >> and i just was thinking, are you losing your mind. who do you think you've got? just couldn't believe it, ten million, from me. >> why would they think heiko had ten million. in lynch burg the kidnapping was big crews. tv crews set up shop across the street and captured hike owe driving his used mercedes coup. >> there you are in your fancy car. >> yes. >> you must be worth millions. >> that was the wrong, wrong
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impression. >> i'm not a rich person, but i will give whatever i can get together. okay. >> we need ten million u.s. dollars for the release of your family. okay. >> hieiko was lucky in this. when mr. so made his demand, some of the most experienced fbi hostage negotiators in the country were right there listening in, ready to point out the right way for heiko to respond. >> these are four general visual prompts we want heiko to think about. we have other questions related to jerfa and kevin we want for heiko to consider can. what we're doing is we're going to write notes down, pass it to heiko, he would read it and hopefully introduce it into the conversation. where's my wife. can i talk to her? is she okay. where's my son. >> yeah, your son. >> can i talk to them? i want to know if they're okay. >> mr. so didn't say.
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meanwhile, fbi agents in the philippines were working sources on the ground. words was jerfa and kevin had been taken to one of abu sayyaf's strongholds, bassa land, a large island about four islands by boat from where they were kidnapped to a base camp deep in washington was impenetrable jungle. >> we traveled there to talk to officials that might have the influence to help. >> heiko might have help, but money, no. >> the government doesn't pay ran son. decisions about ransom are made by the family. >> it was to me know choice. i know i want to pay something just to make sure they are safe. >> the week after the kidnapping, heiko wired a ransom payment, close to $5,000, to a bank account in the philippines. >> i was thinking i pay them money and it is over, but help
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just started wanting more and more and more. >> more weeks went by. mr. so reduced his demand from ten million to two million, then one million. still, impossible of course. so the kidnapper turned up the heat. they put kevin on the line. >> dad. >> yeah. how are you doing over there? >> are you there? we need you to send the money. >> i know that and i'm ready, but all i have and they know it. >> dad, dad, just send the money. that's all they want. >> heiko maxed out his credit cards, boroughed money from whoever he could but it never seemed enough. >> as the incident grows into weeks and months we end up with so many boards we have to work our way down the hallway. >> daniel gersh was one of the hostage negotiators assigned to
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guard heiko. >> it gets to the point where we don't feel like we're making progress, heiko feels we're not making progress. >> i think you just hope, that's all you have, hope. >> but hope was hard to hang on to. the kidnapper kept threatening beheadings. even worse they put jerfa on the phone and beat her while she talked to heiko. >> sweetheart, what are you doing over there. >> i know, honey. >> just tell them i don't have a million. please, do that. >> just stop. i told them that you don't have anything, but they just like asking. >> how are you doing? i'm getting worried, i'm getting so worried. >> a few seconds later the line went dead. >> oh, my god. >> smoking a cigarette or i'm going -- >> heiko, you need to be ready.
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>> the frustration must be pretty intense. >> immense. if he's not calm our hostage takers are not going to be calm. often i would have to tell hi heiko, be quiet, let the hostage taker speak and we'd have a chance to respond. >> then what? how long before they tired of the game and killed the loves of his life. >> i worked these cases that lasted years. >> i'm not making it years. no way. >> he didn't have to wait that long, three months after gerfa and kevin were taken, there was a very different phone call. for heiko it was terrifying. >> coming up -- >> she called me really, really sad and crying. >> i felt her dark place, being a mother myself, and it was awful. >> when "dateline" continues. i just got my cashback match,
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♪ it had been three months since an islamic paramilitary group kidnapped heiko lunsmann's wife and son. he had sent the kidnapper more than $20,000, a fortune for him. then the phone rang again, and it wasn't mr. so. instead, well, even veteran fbi agent dan gersh was astonished. >> we received tremendous news,
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that gerfa was released. obviously heiko was very excited. i could see and hear just joy, joy. >> heiko could scarcely believe it as the news flashed across the philippines and lynchburg, virginia. his wife gerfa was alive and free and safe. so inexpressible joy, and then gerfa called him and heiko realized the nightmare was just beginning. >> she called me really, really sad and crying. so my first question to her was, where's kevin. >> he could hear the terror in her voice. abu sayyaf still had kevin and her cousin. they could kill them at any time they wanted. >> and i felt her dark place, just being a mother myself, and it was awful. >> and before long, her terror deepened when she learned her cousin got out too, which meant that there in that awful place
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her 14-year-old son, no one left to protect him, was all alone. >> i remember seeing that picture of her that was in the news, and she just looked so sad. like she just looked so sad and helpless. >> this is gerfa, and here even five years later the memory is brutal. we brought her back to the philippines and asked her to tell us her story, the story that begin at 2:00 in the morning at the end of a happy family reunion on a beach just about like this one. >> it -- it does take you back. you know, you can hear the water, the waves. >> yeah. >> you can feel the wind. you see the evening sky. >> yeah. >> the stars. >> it was a beautiful thing. >> oh, it was a beautiful morning. suddenly i saw from the left side two men running really fast, like on the sand with some
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kind of rifle. my first impression, it was some kind of robbery. i screamed for help. i was terrified. i've never screamed that loud in my life. >> gerfa rushed back to her hut, grabbed kevin. together they ran toward the beach. well, they didn't get far. in an instant they were surrounded by several armed men in military fatigues. >> kevin was looking at me. he was in front of me, when suddenly someone kick him from behind. that violence right there, they were rough right away. it's like why did they -- why did they kick my son. >> a motor boat suddenly appear. the men pushed kevin and gerfa into it. shocked and frightens, gerfa looked u t see her cousin, not quite 22 years old and the father of a newborn, holding on to the boat trying to prevent it from leaving. >> he didn't care about his safety, he didn't care about his life, and he was begging him, begging him to let him, this is my family, i want to be with
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them, my fate will be the same. >> so they took her cousin, too. gerfa watched the shore disappear into the darkness. >> in a matter of a moment you went from a feeling of incredible peace to the worst nightmare you could ever imagine. >> chaos, complete chaos. and you tried to control yourself, trying to stay calm. and how do you do that? >> it was early morning, right after sunrise when they arrived on an island. they were made to sit hidden in the mangroves. take me, gerfa pleaded with the kidnapper, let the boys go. but in response one of the men raised his machete. >> he looked at me and he said, did you want me to cut your son's -- your infidel son's head already. >> behead him? >> behead him. i knew right then it was religious. >> these guys are fanatics. >> it is more serious, more hostile. >> could you see the hatred in
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his eyes. >> i have never seen so much hate. >> gerfa heard about abu sayyaf and their kidnappings, but she never thought she could be a target. >> we sat there, just shaking and i couldn't stop it. the fear of death is so strong. we were surrounded by these armed men, there was no rescue, no sign of rescue. we were on our own. >> night came. they were prodded at gun point to their feet and into the jungle and its own particular darkness. >> i constantly followed kevin. the minute he is three feet away from me, it is like he is gone, he is gone into darkness. >> then a light, the kidnapper seemed terrified by it. gerfa was gripped by a terror more powerful than ever in her life. >> immediately someone stood close to kevin and i saw the tip of the silver rifle, just went
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close to his forehead. and at that point i just realized, i was like, oh, my gosh, i might lose my son that night. >> coming up -- >> were you ready to die? >> i was ready. i said lord, thank you, for the beautiful family you gave me. i said, if you want me to come home, i'm ready. >> when "dateline" continues. s ♪ good is in every blue diamond almond. and once good gets going, there's no stopping it. blue diamond almonds. get your good going. official snack nut of the u.s. ski and snowboard team. no one burns on heartburn. my watch!
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after 15 years grammy awards will make their return to new york city tonight. the nypd is preparing for heavy security measures including counterterrorism briefings for the performers. democrats have tapped congressman joe kennedy iii of massachusetts to give the official democratic response to president trump's state of the union address on tuesday night. elected in 2012, the 37-year-old has emerged as a vocal advocate
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of the affordable care act and civil rights. now back to "dateline." welcome back to "dateline." i'm craig melvin. kidnap victim gerfa lunsmann had been released from her jungle captivity, but what about the fate of her son and her cousin? here again is keith morris. >> in the dark of a philippine jungle surrounded by men with hate in their eyes, gerfa lunsmann looked terrified at her 14-year-old son. an approaching car had put the kidnapper on alert and now one of them had an automatic rifle to kevin's head. >> i just said, don't move, son. while my entire body was frozen. >> and then the car passed and they kept walking. and several hours later they arrived at abu sayyaf's base camp. and this is where they were
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brought, to a cage in the jungle. not this cage, we actually built this one, but to the exact specifications given to us by gerfa. five feet by five feet, some old broken boards for a floor. jungle sticks lashed together with bark. no roof, no protection from the elements, but a cage as secure as any cage in any prison. there were guard tents on either side of the cage, a sniper on the hill above watching them, and rebeside the cage a seemingly bottomless cliff planted with land mines said their cap tors. >> i know you had been walking for 36 hours or something. how did you feel? >> well, exhausted. physically, spiritually, mentally. >> and then they present you with this. >> and you see this piece of crap and this guy told us, get in. and you want to resist, you want
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to fight it because you know you're not an animal. >> this is gerfa's cousin, the young man who forced the kidnapper to take him so he could protect her and kevin. >> he takes the shorter place here. i will sleep here and kevin will take the longest area of the cage because he is taller. we cannot move. we take one spot and that's it. >> they sat in silence, forbidden to speak. they were, bit by bit, starved, fed a little rice and dried fish, a single plate per day to share. and then one night about a week after they had been taken hostage the group's leader told gerfa about the price abu sayyaf had put on her head, that ten million they demanded from heiko. >> i felt like my whole body just collapsed.
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i knew if i cannot convince him that i don't have that money, i will never see my family again. so i look up toward heaven, and there was this one star just blinking. i pointed at the star, this one star up in that sky and i told them if they can get that star my husk giband can give them te million dollars. gerfa knew heiko would have sent all the money they had, even as the kidnapper squeezed him by putting his terrified son on the phone. >> dad, just send the money. that's all they want. >> how are you doing -- >> heiko didn't realize that the kidnapper were beating kevin as he spoke. gerfa was forced to watch, helpless, full of rage. >> he get hurt from head to
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toes, even though he fell on the ground they continued to abuse him. but all he was doing, it was just listening to his dad, because that was the safety zone. >> gerfa's cousin threw himself on kevin, tried to shield him. >> translator: what i want is to hug kevin, protect him and i want to take the beating. but they tried to keep me away from kevin. i cannot fight back. >> when it was over, kevin and gerfa were forced back into the cage, battered and horrified, and there was her cousin lying in the corner crying. >> so we were just like rubbing his back, trying to console him because it was just three of us, no one care about our feelings, how hurt we are. the world was not there for us. no one was there. >> and if no one was coming to rescue them, well, then they had no choice, they had to try to
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escape come what may down that cliff. and then two months into their captivity the moment came. gunfire pierced the silence. the kidnapper grabbed their weapons and ran toward the front of the camp, and the captives? impulse in unison, squeezed through the cage and slid off the edge of the cliff. >> there was no time to think what happened, no, we got to go down. >> down a slope like that. >> yes. >> head first. >> head first, holding on to the roots and the bushes. >> but then they heard a shout. one of their kidnapper had seen them. >> and he was screaming, they're escaping, they're escaping, they're getting away. and by the time i get and look again, they all line up. it was like really i cannot believe they caught us. we march back into that cage. >> that tiny little cage, which must have felt like a tomb to you.
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>> we know we're going to die in that cage. >> but their cap totors were on edge for a reason. this is nbc news footage of
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>> lead fbi negotiator thought he knew why the kidnapper released gerfa? >> they're attempting to let her go to help raise more money. >> now she is out and she has to talk to these people, but someone needs to be with her. >> kei heiko decided to stay in lynchburg. >> as one month passed and another, they tried to help gerfa deal with mr. so. >> december 6th was the last day we talked to mr. so. he said, look, what you're offering is not enough. this might be the last communication we ever had. we still expected calls, but on the 7th, nothing. on the 8th, nothing. on the 9th, nothing. >> oh, they would hear what happened to kevin soon enough. a shock in waiting.
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>> "dateline" returns after the break. gracias. ♪ at walgreens, how we care will change over time, but why we care remains the same treating everyone with the care and attention they deserve. walgreens. trusted since 1901. a little to the left. 1, 2, 3, push!
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♪ welcome back. time moves at a different pace for those living under duress. for heiko and gerfa lunsmann, each in their own prison of pain, their focus was on their 14-year-old son kevin who was still being held captive for ransom deep in the philippine jungle and there was no way to know if his time was running out. here again in keith morris. >> on the night, heiko sat in
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his kitchen in a hole of despair. his fbi friends with notes and equipment were long gone, in a manila hotel room with his wife who had no news about kevin at all. >> it is a terrible feeling. you are feeling helpless, totally helpless, useless, and just sitting here and hope the best. >> that very day halfway around the world gerfa got word that the fbi wanted to see her immediately. she rushed to the hotel room. >> when i opened the door everybody was looking at me so quiet, just stare at me. it was like, oh, something happened, something happened to kevin. >> an fbi agent was holding a phone. on the line, the mayor of a small town on basalan island. it is for you, the agent told gerfa. >> the mayor said, mrs. lunsmann. i was like, yeah.
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kevin is out! i was like what, what, it was like chaos after that. when i talk to him after that, kevin. hi, mom, this is kevin. just soun so good, it was a beautiful sound, it was my son, my son. >> kevin was free, but how? >> it was the craziest turn of my life probably. i didn't think it was ever going to happen. >> here he is, kevin lunsmann, now in his 20s, and this is his amazing story, which began a moment before the kidnapper took his mom away, when she leaned forward and whispered in his ear. >> i remember the words exactly she said. you have to get home to your father, you have to get back home. it made me realize that she might be thinking that she may not make it tonight. >> that she might be being taken away to be killed. >> yes. i just wanted to cry.
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and i didn't -- i didn't want to lose her. >> soon after that they took his cousin away, too. >> after he left i was alone. there was nothing more. it was just me. >> 14 years old, all alone in that dark room in the jungle. and when he finally slept he had a dream. >> we were in a two-story house and i turned to my side and my mother's there and my cousin's there, and all of a sudden a barrage of bullets goes through the walls. all of these bullets are flying through and yet we're not getting hit. all of a sudden turned around and my mother's gone and my cousin's gone and the barrage of bullets has stopped, everything has ceased. i just realized i'm alone again. even in my dream i was alone. >> he woke up, remembered his mother's words, get home to your dad, and he made a choice. >> i was going to get home, one way or another.
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>> how the heck would you do that? >> i was still unclear of that myself. i just had to wait, maybe one day they would get careless. >> you'd escape? >> yes. >> bit by bit he prepared. >> physically i tried to maintain, i tried to get as much food as i could when they would give it to me. sometimes do sit ups, push ups, because if i ever did have to run i would have to be somewhat in shape. >> and then he had an idea. the kidnapper allowed him to wash his clothes and hang them to dry on a line outside the house. maybe if they were distracted somehow he could make a run for it, get to the ocean, catch a boat to the main land. wishful thinking, of course. he was guarded around the clock. but then one morning being almost six months after he was taken hostage. >> i woke up in the morning and i could hear no sounds whatsoever. i looked at the trails and i couldn't see anyone walking around. and it was sorts of like a light
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bulb moment that this might be it. washed his clothes, hung them up. two voices in his mind. >> one saying you should run, the other saying you should stay. i proceeded to walk to the edge of the house and i looked at the creek and around the side and i could see no one, nothing no movement. after that i just bolted. >> kevin knew, as many 14-year olds do, that water obliterates footprints, might hide his route of escape. and so with his heart pounding and his ears straining for the sound of pursuers, he picked his way down the creek bed into the jungle. and then he heard it, the bird call. >> it wasn't just a bird. this was more of like an alert call that the terrorists used to communicate with another. so i knew that the signal had been put out that i had escaped. >> what did that do to you? >> as soon as i heard it i knew i had to get out as fast as i
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could. i had to run. >> i guess it is one of those moments in life where you either grow up and deal with it or you decide to give up and stay a little boy. >> those are my two choices, are you going to panic or are you going to man up and try to get out of here. i chose option two. >> and so he ran all day and into the thick black of the jungle night. his feet raw, his clothes ripped by unseen hazards, bloodies now by thorns that tore into his flesh. >> i would get through it at any cost, even the cost of my life. i would get through it. >> exhausted, he searched for a hiding place so inhospitable his pursuers won't think to look there. he felt asleep in a mosquito-infested swamp. when the sun rose and he opened his eyes. >> i remember waking up and not smelling the aroma of the coffee
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they brewed or maybe the types of food like fried rice, i didn't smell any of that. i smelled fresh air. i smelled freedom. >> at least for the moment. but where was he. >> at a point i couldn't keep going through brush because i didn't know my exact location. i had to keep get on a road, m can find a different way. >> but there was a danger because people might see you out there. >> because people might walking possibly get on a different way. >> but there was a danger because people might see you. >> yeah. >> well, on this island, you don't know who is with them and who is not. but it was a right he had to take and soon regretted. walking down the road, he heard a voice behind him. a man was approaching, but he had a rifle. coming up -- >> i had walked through all that terrain, and it was for nothing. >> he could take you away, take
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you back to those guys. >> i froze. >> when "dateline" continues. i'll never find a safe used car. start at the new carfax.com show me minivans with no reported accidents. boom. love it. [struggles] show me the carfax. start your used car search at the all-new carfax.com.
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welcome back. 14-year-old kevin lunsby made a daring escape from his jungle kidnappers, but now he was lost running for his life deep in the heart of the jungle. here with the conclusion of the story is jake morris. >> for two days and one long
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night, kevin dolunsman could fe the guns at his back. it somehow eluded them. >> all my clothes were covered in blood, my hair was ruffled, i smelled terrible. i probably had over 100 or more lacerations on my body. blood all over my arms as well, so i didn't look too good. >> then he took one necessary risk and emerged to a public road and there it was. the end. clearly, a local on this infested island. and he had a very big gun. >> i thought i had escaped and walked through all that terrain, and it was for nothing. they had found me and were going to bring me back. >> then the man spoke. and the words startled kevin. he was speaking english. >> he was asking, do you need help? were you kidnapped?
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and i froze at that question again and just thought this is it, should i tell him? >> it could go either way still. to take you away, take you back to those guys. >> and i knew the risks, but at this point, i felt like i was going to put my trust in him. >> so how did he react? >> he proceeded to say, i'm going to get you out of here, get you home. and my name is kenny. i'm here to help. >> my name is kenny? >> kenny, like kenny rogers, exactly what he said. it gave me a laugh. and it was one of the first laughs i had in a long time. >> kenny got in touch with the mayor of the nearby village. the mayor called the philippine army and the army arrived in humvees. >> it seemed like hundreds of them. and i was just like, is this all for me? i just couldn't believe it. i realized that i'm going to see my family again, my friends.
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i'm going to have my life back. >> but kevin was able to hear a familiar voice. >> hey, mom, is that really you? once i heard her voice, i knew that was her. and i think at that point i felt alive again. there was color in my life again. >> after that 14-year-old's amazing escape, the u.s. military put him on a plane to manila where his mother was waiting on the tarmac. >> the door was too slow to open. i was ready to climb the plane and open the door. and he stood there on the plane right there looking around, like, i'm right here, you know? it's like, i'm right here. but he was just looking. and i was like, you don't recognize me. you've got to stop crying, all right? >> i could see tears. and as i got closer and closer,
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i realized, i knew who that was. we just ran up to each other and we just hugged each other. and it was just incredible. >> back in lynchburg, kevin's dad was delivering turkeys to a christmas hospital when somebody found him and gave him the news. >> i was so happy. you don't have to be worried. and i have my family back. and that is just a great feeling. >> on december 14th, 2011, six months after they were taken hostage, they finally came home, returned to lynchburg. >> it was awesome. the first thing we did was put up christmas decorations. kevin and jersa were so happy. i didn't know what to expect. because i didn't know what they
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had been through, but they were so grateful to be back with their family. >> in 2012, they caught two of their kidnappers. they returned to help send their captors to prison. kevin was honored for his bravery by the virginia general assembly and president obama. then kevin went off top college, had an idea about joining the fbi one day. >> he was there, you know, as a boy and then he came out as a man. >> you must be pretty proud of that boy. >> very proud. >> years separate their ordeal from this evening on the beach with us have erased not a moment of the memory, the terror they shared, the pain, the deprivation, the sorrow and finally joy. but we look on and see a bond only they can fully understand. did you ever think you would actually be in a situation where
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you have your arm around your mother and talking about this in the past tense with smiles on your face? >> never. >> we never thought it would be possible. but here we are. >> and we're very glad to see you safe. >> thank you. >> wonderful, wonderful. that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. good morning, i'm dara brown in new york. i'm at msnbc world headquarters. it's 7:00 out east and 4:00 out west. four days until the president's first state of the union. we'll tell you whether russia will be mentioned. plus, the tone of the speech. will we see a word of inspiration or more american carnala

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